Updated: Mar 21
Located in the downtown core of London, Ontario, Budweiser Gardens is a cornerstone of the city’s cultural past and present. Here’s a brief history of how this venue came to be.
Budweiser Gardens is a massive attraction for London locals and the surrounding rural area of Southwestern Ontario. Nestled in the hub of the city’s downtown core, Budweiser Gardens is slated to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2022.
The History of Budweiser Gardens
Budweiser Gardens had its grand opening day on October 11, 2002. Originally, the venue was named the John Labatt Centre (affectionately shortened by locals to become “The JLC”). The historic design of the exterior of the building was meant to replicate the aesthetic of the old Talbot Inn that was originally located where the Budweiser Gardens building stands today.
There was some mild controversy surrounding the demolition of the 19th century Talbot Inn at the time. However, some of the original bricks of the Talbot Inn building were repurposed in the interior walls of the Budweiser Gardens facility. Despite the controversy amidst heritage groups around the Talbot Inn’s demolition, there was no action or legal ramifications with regard to the rebuild for the Budweiser Gardens sports-entertainment venue.
October of 2002: A Legendary Opening Weekend
Opening day at the John Labatt Centre was a Friday night hockey game featuring the venue’s OHL team, The London Knights. The venue’s first concert was hosted just days later when Our Lady Peace headlined for a sold-out crowd on October 13, 2002. The JLC rapidly became a top destination for concert-goers across Southwestern Ontario, featuring artists like Guns & Roses and Cher playing to sold-out crowds during the first year of operation.
The NHL Visits London, Ontario
In 2003, the JLC hosted the first of many NHL preseason games featuring the Philadelphia Flyers team. The NHL preseason game was so well-received by sports fans in the area that the games became a tradition for many years to come.
Concert Venue and Entertainment Highlights
Budweiser Gardens (formerly the JLC) has been a concert venue for dozens of recognizable music artists.
Some of the most notable shows include:
● The Tragically Hip (2004)
● Bryan Adams (2004)
● Rod Stewart (2004)
● Metallica (2004)
● Shania Twain (2004, two shows)
● Avril Lavigne (2005)
● Keith Urban (2005)
● The Backstreet Boys (2005)
● Elton John (2006)
● Bon Jovi (2007)
● Rihanna (2007)
● Linkin Park (2008)
● Jay-Z (2009)
● Justin Bieber (2010)
● Sting (2010)
● Prince (2011)
● Pearl Jam (2013)
● Luke Bryan (2015)
● Ed Sheeran (2015)
This is just a brief list of some of the amazing musical talent and entertainment acts that have played to sold-out crowds at the Budweiser Gardens facility. Other entertainment acts and sporting events include comedy shows, curling tournaments, skating competitions, Monster Jam, Disney on Ice, theatrical concert experiences, The Juno Awards, and more.
The Budweiser Garden venue strives to provide diverse programming that promotes a sense of vibrancy and culture for those who live in London and the surrounding area. The venue is also known for its commitment to people with disabilities and has been designed to exceed the Ontario Building Code requirements for accessibility.
The London Knights win the Memorial Cup
The London Knights OHL hockey club secured its first Memorial Cup win in 2005. The Knights had an incredible season with a 31-game winning streak and included players on the team like Corey Perry, Brandon Prust and Dave Bolland. The 2005 London Knights team beat Sidney Crosby’s Rimouski Océanic team in the finals to win the Memorial Cup. The London Knights have won 11 divisional trophies and two Memorial Cups. The team has also seen a number of talented alumni drafted to the NHL, including Nazem Kadri, Daryl Sittler, Brendan Shanahan, Patrick Kane, and Brad Marsh.
Quick Facts about Budweiser Gardens
● Has a seating capacity of 9,090 for hockey and ice events
● Can hold up to 10,000 people for concerts, family shows, and other events
● The building is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2022
● Home to the Junior A hockey club named “The London Knights”
● Has 1,000 premium club seats and 38 private luxury suites
● Budweiser Gardens is leased from the City of London by the London Civic Centre Corporation
● The building was constructed at the cost of approximately $42 million
Due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Budweiser Gardens closed its doors in 2020 for safety reasons and to abide by provincial restrictions. The Budweiser Gardens sports-entertainment centre was briefly allowed to reopen with some capacity restrictions and safety precautions in 2021. However, the concert venue once again was forced to shut down in early 2022 due to another province-wide restriction on entertainment venues and other businesses.
2022 and Beyond
Budweiser Gardens anticipates reopening in accordance with the provincial and public health regulations. There are a number of concerts, shows, and sporting events still slated to potentially take place in the venue during 2022.
With a number of high-profile concerts cancelled in the past couple of years due to COVID-19, it’s anticipated that smaller-scale shows will make a return. Hopefully, as restrictions ease, the building can return to hosting concerts and other larger entertainment events at full capacity once again. With this year being its 20-year anniversary, there is still hope for some kind of celebration around the history of Budweiser Gardens.
How to Visit this Iconic Southwestern Ontario Destination
If you’re planning a visit to Budweiser Gardens in 2022, be sure to look at the COVID-19 restrictions at the time of your travel. There are dozens of hotels and restaurants in the area where the Budweiser Garden sports-entertainment centre is located. Tickets for large-name Budweiser Gardens concerts are always highly coveted and challenging to purchase before selling out.
Budweiser Gardens is a great venue for families, corporate groups, couples, or any other audience to attend an event that they’re interested in. It’s our hope that the venue can soon return to its glory days of sold-out concerts and to hosting nightly events every weekend in London, Ontario.